The state attorney general’s office on Monday delayed asking permission for Ohio State University to spend up to $500,000 on the investigation into how Urban Meyer handled a 2015 domestic violence allegation against a coach on his staff.
The request was scheduled to go before the state Controlling Board, a legislative spending oversight panel, to approve payment to New York-based law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. The hourly rate for the investigative work is not to exceed $1,620.
”The Controlling Board item has been deferred as the parties will be adjusting the budget on this matter,” said Dan Tierney, spokesman for Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office
The request is expected to be back on the agenda when the Controlling Board meets again in two weeks. No payment has yet been made to the firm.
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A number of lawmakers on the board said they had questions about the payment.
“I’m hopeful they can pinpoint more specifically the costs so we don’t have to regularly revisit the issue with additional funding requests,” said Sen. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark.
Hottinger said he wanted to know more about the total cost, and why the university is using an out-of-state law firm to conduct the investigation.
Rep. Al Landis, R-Dover, said he had some initial concerns about details of the request, but those issues were answered before the meeting.
Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, whose district includes most of Ohio State’s main campus, said she wanted to hear more about the hourly rate being charged by the firm, which, she said, seemed high. She said she didn’t have a problem hiring a firm outside Ohio, but she wants to know what kind of review was done of other firms that do this kind of work.
“Certainly there are firms that specialize in certain kind of cases,” she said. “And I understand there may be the appearance that there could be bias if there’s an Ohio firm, or firms that had significant numbers of people or partners that did business with Ohio State.”
The final investigative report is finished and the Ohio State Board of Trustees will meet Wednesday morning and recommend what, if any, further punishment should be imposed on Meyer, who has been on administrative leave since Aug. 1. University President Michael Drake will then make the final decision.
Meyer fired Zach Smith on July 23, three days after ex-wife Courtney Smith filed a civil protection order against him. The issue came to light as Zach Smith appeared in court on a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge stemming from an incident in May.
Meyer’s dilemma developed after he initially denied any knowledge of the domestic violence allegations against Smith by his then-wife from an incident in 2015. Meyer later reversed that denial and said he followed proper reporting procedures regarding the incident.
Powell police have refused to release the full records of the 2015 domestic incident between Zach and Courtney Smith. The Dispatch has filed a complaint with the Ohio Court of Claims asking that the records be released.
Smith, 34, was a six-year veteran of the coaching staff and the grandson of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, who had a long, close relationship with Meyer. Smith and his ex-wife have traded accusations and denials since their domestic issues became public.
Tavares questioned why officials put a two-week timeline on the investigation at the beginning.
“It’s strange to me that you know in advance how long it’s going to take to finish an investigation,” she said. “How do you know it’s only going to take two weeks? That investigation should go as long as it needs to go to get a thorough review … I don’t know how to prescribe that in advance.”
Tavares said she wants the review to ultimately be thorough and transparent, with appropriate punishment levied if it finds that someone didn’t do what was required of them.
Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York and former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has headed the investigation.
As part of her extensive professional background, she has been involved in NFL investigations, including workplace-misconduct allegations against former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and physical assault allegations against former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott involving his former girlfriend.